Republican political newcomer Jarrid “Jay” Collins, a former Green Beret medic and Republican, has filed to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, and is starting his campaign emphasizing his military service and attacking Castor as a “career politician” and part of a “political dynasty.”
Collins joins a Republican primary that includes Angel Urbina and former two-time candidate Christine Quinn.
Collins is best known locally for working with a nonprofit, Operation BBQ Relief, that delivers meals in disaster zones. In 2019, Collins, who lost a leg due to injuries sustained during a deployment to Afghanistan, biked and hand-cycled from Los Angeles to Tampa to raise money and awareness for the organization.
Collins said, as a member of the politically neutral military, he never previously acted on his political convictions.
He’s also a comparative newcomer to Tampa but said he and his wife chose the city, where they have other family connections, as their home when he retired from the Army three years ago. He said they’re building a house in Citrus Park. During his 23-year military career, finishing as a first sergeant, they lived “all over,” he said.
His wife, Layla, is also a veteran of 20 years in the Army. They have two children.
Collins, 45, is originally from Montana. He said he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from online universities that serve service members.
A campaign news release says he “faced our toughest enemies in combat, and he won’t back down from a fight against the far-left agenda in Washington.”
In an interview, he said he’s running as “a continuation of my service to the American people,” and advocated a strong military, support for law enforcement, a simplified tax code and tax relief.
“The American people want to keep more of the income. It’s not a taxation problem, it’s a spending problem. That’s the first place I would start.”
“We need a representative who will not make a career out of holding public office or is elected because politics (is) a family tradition,” he said, a shot at Castor, a former Hillsborough County commissioner now in her seventh House term and daughter of veteran Tampa political leader Betty Castor.
Quinn lost to Castor by 20 points in 2020 and 22 points in 2016 in the heavily Democratic Tampa-centered district, which was set up by the GOP Legislature to concentrate Democrats in one spot, removing them from surrounding districts.
“I did pretty darn well — I pulled out more voters than any Republican has,” Quinn said.
Quinn said Collins did not contact her before filing, “which would have been proper etiquette.”
“I would say, thank you for your service but we need strong leadership. … I will show I’m the better candidate,” Quinn said.
Urbina ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 2020 and the Board of Commissioners in 2018.
No early voting in St. Pete
As in most St. Petersburg city elections, there will be no early voting in this year’s primary and general municipal elections, due partly to the cost of opening, staffing and supplying polling places for a comparatively small number of voters.
That’s true even though early voting is popular with Black and other minority voters, and this year’s election could produce the city’s first Black mayor.
Some political insiders say that could depress Black turnout in the city races, but at least two prominent local civil rights leaders say they don’t see it as a problem in a county where mail voting has traditionally taken precedence over early voting.
The Pinellas County Supervisor of Election’s Office carries out the city elections as a contractor for the city. St. Petersburg City Clerk Chan Srinivasa said adding 14 days of early voting at three sites would cost $312,000 in addition to the $345,000 cost of the November election. He said the city uses early voting only when its elections coincide with state or county elections.
Lobbyist Todd Pressman and political scientist Darryl Paulson, both veteran local political observers, said the lack of early voting could depress turnout and that less-engaged voters would be most affected.
“The less opportunity people have to vote, the less turnout you’ll have,” Pressman said. Both said well-known, well-funded candidates and incumbents will benefit.
Democratic political consultant Tom Alte said the county’s heavy emphasis on mail voting forces candidates to spend heavily on communication with voters starting as soon as mail ballots go out, which they did this week.
But both St. Petersburg NAACP President Esther Eugene and Pinellas County Urban League CEO Watson Haynes said they don’t see any urgency for the city to adopt early voting, even though Haynes said he and other Black voters prefer to vote in person rather than by mail.
Haynes said St. Petersburg has not suffered from extremely long polling place lines on election day, perhaps because of extensive mail voting.
“I don’t see a reason to step outside the normal procedures” because of the chance of a Black mayor in this year’s election, Eugene said.